Fiddling while taxpayers burn

— Chargers owner Alex Spanos, who benefits mightily from the stadium-ticket guarantee financed by San Diego taxpayers, threw a 50th anniversary party for his wife Faye at their controversial new mansion near Stockton last week. Guests included Governor Pete Wilson, a longtime beneficiary of Spanos political money, and Spanos buddy Bob Hope, along with Phyllis Diller and Barron Hilton. According to a society page write-up in the San Francisco Chronicle, the multimillionaire apartment builder didn't skimp on party favors for his estimated 450 guests. "The Spanoses, who like everything to work smoothly, had 35 parking valets to handle the horsepower. Then guests were transported in golf carts to their home, Villa Angelica, where 16 Walt Tolleson violinists fiddled away." The paper added that Hope "made his way past the swimming pool filled with roses -- you could almost imagine him saying, 'I've heard of putting Four Roses in water, but 25,000 of 'em?' -- to find his place at the head table." Dance music was provided by Les Brown and His Band of Renown. For dessert, the paper said, guests chowed down "450 three-tier wedding cakes" and "Faberge eggs that opened to reveal Faye and Alex dancing just as they did to the 'Anniversary Waltz.' " According to the Chronicle, Spanos told laughing guests, "I just moved in three days ago. I need someone to lead me to our bedroom or I'll get lost." The paper said the house has "marble floors and terraces, a chapel, three guest bedrooms and a master bedroom suite with dressing rooms that are bigger than most people's living rooms [and] is set in a grove of shrubs and trees, most of which were brought in full grown." The mansion raised controversy after Native American activists accused construction crews of disturbing ancient burial remains on the site. A plan to name a county highway after Spanos was beaten back by Stockton locals.

Fixed radio

Jacor, that national radio station chain controlled by investor Sam Zell out of Chicago, has run afoul of a citizens group opposing a new stadium for the Denver Broncos. Citizens Opposing the Stadium Tax has complained to the Federal Communications Commission that Jacor, which owns eight stations in the Denver area, is "openly engaged in a campaign to shape public opinion and influence an election that would result in substantial profits for itself as well as its political and business allies." A spokesman for Jacor, which airs the Broncos' games, denied that the chain ever threatened to fire radio talk-show hosts for opposing the stadium, as alleged by anti-stadium forces. "Overwhelmingly our hosts are pro-stadium, but that's not because of orders from us," Jacor general manager Lee Larsen told the Denver Post. Padres stadium opponents claim that Jacor, which controls 11 San Diego stations, is doing the same thing here ... The stock of Rural Metro Corp., the controversial ambulance outfit out of Phoenix that took over San Diego's paramedic service last year, is on the ropes. Poor earnings, the surprise resignation of chief executive officer Warren Rustand, and a lawsuit by San Diego's own shareholders' litigator Bill Lerach combined to send the shares into the $6 range, way down from $37 last October.

Believe it or nuts

Most of the conventional wisdom says that a tight housing market in San Diego is driving rents up. But according to a recent report by the San Diego Apartment Owners Association, rents are actually falling in many areas of the city. For instance, in downtown's 92101 zip code, the association claims that average monthly rates on a studio have gone from $474 in the spring of '97 to $424 in the spring of '98 and an average three-bedroom apartment in Golden Hill that went for $731 in spring of '97 fell to $631 in spring of '98 ... An art history grad from San Diego State University has been busted for stealing original Dr. Seuss paintings from a Seattle art gallery where he had been employed as director. William Chad Spicknall, 32, was unmasked as a thief after he moved back to San Diego in April and cops discovered the stolen art in his Seattle apartment and the digs of his San Diego girlfriend, according to the Seattle Times.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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